Blood Urn – …of Gory Sorcery and Death (2014)

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Blood Urn is a death metal project whose approach to the genre is one that can reinvigorate it while being very traditional. Superficially, a listener who only glances over the surface of …Of Sorcery and Death may incorrectly say this is an old school album, a modern euphemism for retro-acts or merely those who do not play the metalcore-based so-called technical death metal. It is true that this is an old school release, but only in the sense that it upholds the same ideals of the best of that era, including certain preferences in aesthetics as a reflection of an inner attitude — an idea that stands in contrast with the superficial selection of genres and expressions of modern bands that wear style as a change of clothes to pose as something they are not.

If we made the mistake of approaching this distinction like most clueless people do, that is, with a shopping list of the aesthetic characteristics that usually accompany a genre in order to identify it, we would definitely arrive at the same conclusions. That is why premises are as important as having good logic. Wrong premises and good logic only lead you safely to wrong conclusions. But if we start with the premise that those aesthetic characteristics are only the reflection of a spirit which is much more than intention or purpose but also crystallized significance, we will recognize that the shopping-list approach is at best a collection of hints and not a concrete definition.

Blood Urn …Of Sorcery and Death is a death metal (‘old school’ death metal is the only one, with various regional styles) album in the truest sense. A death metal at heart and in representation. The expressions that seem typical of death metal are used here in what can be accurately described as progressive without incurring in the fallacy that all disparate appending of music qualifies as such.  In accordance with death metal tradition, music builds up through structural devices: mainly through variation and manipulation of theme with a climax and a clear musical goal in mind for an end.  By musical goal we mean one as defined by traditional classical theory, not by the “good intentions” of the music writer. Intention and realization are two different and distinguishable things, something relativists and individualists would do well to keep in mind.

While varied in expression, Blood Urn manages to remain fairly coherent, choosing to tie different textures in a mix that also incorporates the riff-salad approach. In this, it is somewhat similar to the way Horgkomostropus Lúgubre Resurrección builds in a very typical death metal push and pull between structural theme-play and variation and contrasting ideas that are brought gradually into the fold, first as a splash of cold water to the listener and then in gradual integration through interleaving and recombination of sections and themes. It is important to say that in good death metal fashion, the limit of the contrasting ideas does not break away from the chosen style, which is the sin of many a pseudo-prog outfit. This conjoined approach of dealing structural development from a theme with one and then riff-salad with the other only to increasingly interleave them and sometimes ultimately fuse them into altogether different endings can be referenced in masterful albums such as At the Gates’ The Red in the Sky is Ours and is also the approach of Blood Urn to music composition, albeit with a much more humble and less-layered result.

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Villiger Cigars – Newminster No. 400 Superior Navy Flake

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The first question any smoker should ask when approaching this tobacco is whether or not Navy Flake is a style that they enjoy. The name conveys both the form, which is dense slices from a pressed brick, and the flavor which is provided by Virginia tobacco with very minor casing or additions to the mix. The result is a thick sheaf of tobacco that can either be rubbed out into shreds or stacked in the bowl.

Its flavor will appeal to those who like straight Virginias: a combination of harvest hay smells and clover honey, lightly touched with warm molasses and perhaps the scent of leaves in fall. It tastes like it smells, and brings a warmth of flavor into the bowl. This tobacco competes with other Navy Flakes like those from Dunhill, Escudo and Gawaith, but aims for a more middle-of-the-road appeal for those who want something flavorful to smoke all day. Its nicotine dosage registers at the lower half of the middle of the scale, not as light as the drugstore aromatics but not as hard hitting as the flakes which appeal to the battle-scared pipe smoker, aloft in his mountain retreat or on the prow of a ship, pausing only briefly to inhale before firing back at some unseen enemy. Newminster flake burns gracefully and leaves behind a fine white-grey ash, coating the room in a gentle note that often appeals to non-smokers as well.

Navy Flake appeals to a certain type of smoker in a certain situation. It is a light smoke not as in taste reduced, but in that all of its flavors strike gently rather than hard; the smoke from this, while somewhat harsh with some bite, floats gently and rewards slower smoking. The disadvantage to this blend frankly is that it is lighter in nicotine and flavor, which makes it better for smoking all day when distracted than sitting down for a good solid smoke when working or relaxing. While it ranks higher in gentle flavor than some of the other flakes, it lingers behind them in power and interest; a good Virginia brown, better than many but not configured to be a favorite.

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Metalhead pipesmokers unite!

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The old saying goes that those who love to use tobacco smoke cigarettes, and those who love tobacco smoke cigars and pipes. The cigarettes give you a quicker hit because the lungs, with their much vaster absorption area, deliver nicotine to the brain within about three seconds. The cigarette ends within three to seven minutes and the craving subsides momentarily. With pipes and cigars, the nicotine slowly oozes in through the mucus membranes in the mouth, tongue and (sometimes) throat, creating a stronger dose of nicotine but without the sudden “falling off a cliff” sensation. Many metalheads smoke cigarettes, but more are branching out to pipes and cigars for the flavors, more intense dosage and less damage to the body.

Please do not read this as an anti-cigarette rant. They are wonderful, in their own right, and much less work than cigars or pipes. However, burning any leaves and inhaling them directly into your lungs 10-20 times a day would cause some kind of long term health problem as gunk — tar, ash and irritants — builds up on the alveoli. On top of that, our industry and lawmakers have decided to mandate all sorts of processing of the tobacco, so who knows what else is being inhaled. If you would not mind going into a fast food joint, taking home their lettuce, dehydrating it and sitting next to a giant pile of it burning all day, cigarettes might not bother you. And keep in mind that there are brain-boosting benefits to nicotine in addition to resistance to neurodegenerative disorders, an effect which you do not get with the charred salad.

Cigars are beyond the scope of this article, but pipes are its focus. Pipes are essentially little wooden, stone or clay cups for burning tobacco with an inhalation tube attached. The smoker fills the pipe loosely with tobacco, then ignites it with some of the many means available to us ex-hominids, inhaling the smoke into his mouth and savoring it before blowing it outward into the personal space of those around him. While the topic of smoking pipes merits a full book, this article provides an introduction to pipe smoking designed to be as simple and low-cost as possible.

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To get started, you will need:

  • A pipe. Generally between $35-$65 for a good starter pipe. Look for 0.7inch diameter bowls and filterless stems. This tool may help.
  • Tobacco. This comes in tins and bulk, usually found at Brick and Mortar (B&M) shops, and Over the Counter (OTC) usually found at drugstores and supermarkets.
  • Pipe cleaners. Each time you smoke, you will want to clean your pipe. Pipe cleaners have two ends, so that is two smokes per cleaner. It is not a terrible habit to include a bundle or package of these each time you buy tobacco.
  • A pipe nail. Demystifying this tool: it can be as simple as a key. You use one end to cut up tobacco, allowing it to collapse into an ember, and the other to tamp it after you light it for the first time. Tobacco rises like a demon unleashed when touched with fire, but compressing it allows it to smoulder so you can sip the pipe.
  • Fire. I favor the compressed cardboard matches in matchbooks, but you can use anything. For some, lighters and zippos taste horrible, so they prefer the match. The only trick is to burn off the tip before lighting.

To avoid the usual drama, let us launch into the process of smoking:

You go to some place with little wind, but some air circulation, where you have a comfortable chair. Sitting in it, you take out your tobacco. Holding the pipe over the tobacco container, let the shreds of tobacco fall into the pipe. When it is half-full, gently tamp with a finger. When it reaches the top, pinch from the center to one side and then the other, compressing the tobacco and letting it fall back into place. (Much has been written on this topic, usually under the unfortunate appellation of packing a pipe, when the correct word to use is fill: put tobacco into the pipe so there are no fully empty spaces, but fall short of compacting it so air — necessary for fire and smoke — can flow through. Ignore all other advice.)

Put the pipe in your mouth, holding it gently with teeth and firmly with lips. Light a match, and hold it vertically at a slight angle so the flame climbs the stalk of the match, then when the head has burned off, move the match over the tobacco in slow circles while inhaling. Take the smoke into your mouth and the top part of your throat if you wish, but try to avoid it leaking further down toward the lungs. You can compress it by gently blowing out the air from the front of your mouth, which draws in smoke from the pipe. The best way to inhale that I have found involves flaring the nose and drawing in air slowly but steadily.

My favorite cycle runs in seven second increments. For bigger mouthfuls, draw in your smoke, then keep it in your mouth for three seconds, then exhale and wait another four seconds. For slower sips, take one for about a half-second, then wait at least three seconds before the next. It helps to have a slight background circulation of air to keep the pipe oxygenated and smouldering well.

Many smokers do a “char and light” where they torch the top layer of tobacco, then tamp it lightly because it has risen up as it burned, and then light again to get the resulting compressed tobacco to blaze. At two-thirds through the bowl, it may be helpful to use a poker or the pointy end of your pipe nail to chop up the resulting ember and set it ablaze again. The lighting requirements vary between tobacco types, which will be addressed below.

When no more smoke comes out of the pipe, and you sense that the tobacco has been converted mostly to ash, tap it out into convenient bushes or a metal trash receptacle without a plastic bag. The ash will be hot and melt plastic. To tap out, hold the pipe in your hand and swing it downward to shake the ash out of the bowl. You may have to stir it with poker or nail beforehand.

Then comes the most important part of the ritual. If your pipe lacks a filter, run a pipe cleaner from the mouthpiece into the pipe and leave it there for a few minutes to absorb both direct and ambient moisture. This will keep your pipe fresh-tasting for its next use.

Pipe smokers vary. Some are hard-hitters who blaze through a bowl quickly, where others are sippers who have a pipe going all day for an hour at a time. If you re-light too frequently, or smoke too fast, the pipe may get hot; if this happens enough and to a great enough extreme, it may cause a condition known as “burnout” where the material of the pipe chars and cracks. To help avoid this, smoke on the seven-second method and also, allow some nice thick gunky tar to line the bowl, especially on the bottom. I always smoke some OTC aromatics, which are full of sugary flavoring that bonds together the goo and forms a kind of tar cement, down to the bottom of the bowl to layer it with a nice thick coating of glop. This glop chars over time and becomes a sort of pipe creosote that insulates against extremes.

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Tobacco originates as leafy plant in the genus Nicotiana, which when cured, dried, pressed and shredded becomes a delicious flammable method of nicotine delivery. The great variations in what are called generically tobaccos occur in the different strains of tobacco plants, and the different methods used to grow, cure, dry, press, and cut the leaves.

That process produces a number of tobacco types, which are then combined in varying amounts into different blends, which you might think of as “tobacco recipes” because they achieve a unique flavor through the ingredients — different types of tobacco — mixed within them. These blends are also distinguished by their cut or how they are sliced, which is related to the flavor and tobacco characteristics in each blend. Many blends are then coated in flavoring known as “aromatic”; if the primary flavor to the smoking blend is the flavoring and not the underlying tobacco, the blend is referred to as an aromatic tobacco.

For the end user, tobacco is then shaped by another force — the consumer market — and placed into the following silos:

  1. Over-the-Counter (OTC). OTC tobaccos are designed for convenience. They are usually either aromatics or a type of shag-cut tobacco that is also used for Roll Your Own (RYO) cigarettes. These burn most easily, cost about $2 an ounce, and are generally mild in both flavor and nicotine level.
  2. Luxury. Like most things in our society, the good stuff only starts when you step off the mainstream and pony up some more cash. You would not buy Budweiser to drink, nor Marlboro to smoke, so you will choose a pipe tobacco made under the brand name of an established firm. A handful of producers make these tobaccos now, but they tend to be stronger and rely more on the flavor of natural tobacco, although many are also aromatics but with a wider variety of flavors than OTC.
  3. Boutique. A cottage industry has sprung up in making this variety of luxury tobacco which aims for unique and intense flavors, sometimes combining aromatic and unflavored tobaccos. These are more expensive than “regular” luxury and are made by a handful of blenders who also own mail-order tobacco shops.
  4. Vintage. In the past, everything was better. People have been saying that for generations, and apparently each were correct: the tobaccos of only 20 years ago were stronger and more flavorful. Luxury tobaccos, once considered regular tobacco, have been stored in sealed tins (if you buy one on eBay, make sure it is also “unopened” as opposed to re-sealed) and are now much sought-after.

I recommend starting with a solid OTC like Carter Hall, Prince Albert, Captain Black, Five Brothers or even Drum. These are the easiest to learn to pipe with, and give you a feeling for what mild levels of nicotine and flavor are like. In addition, they are low-cost so you will not howl and scream if you accidentally ruin a bowl or spill some.

You may find that these are pleasing enough for you and that you are content to smoke them for life. There is nothing wrong with this; many have done so and it provides the least fetishistic and complex smoking experience. Five Brothers stands out from most of these because it does not use aromatic flavoring or propylene glycol (PG), a moisturizing agent added to many OTC tobaccos. If your OTC tobacco comes out of the can or pouch and seems damp, it probably has a good dose of PG. Many aromatics, including those sold at the luxury level, also have this treatment.

From that point, the next stop is an entry-level luxury tobacco. I suggest going with a Dunhill blend because they are widely available, not overly flavored, and tend to be sliced for easy burning. You can generally get a tin of 50g/1.76oz for about $9 online or $15 in the real world, if you are in the United States; this will vary with local tobacco taxes. You may notice that you are paying quite a bit in taxes throughout this whole process, and wonder if that is in fact the impetus for the whole societal jihad against tobacco. Keep wondering. In places like Canada and Europe, they pay multiples of what you pay here. Scary.

At this point, I would stop moving up the ladder. Boutique blends are a variety of luxury blend that costs more and has more unique, ironic, oddball, quirky, and otherwise off-the-beaten path blends. However, it tends to be lower in nicotine content and it is unclear whether these weird little blends are actually that distinct from their archetypes. There are only so many types of tobacco and while many different combinations can be made, most of them resemble a few fundamental types. I have never ventured into Vintage tins and can say that, while undoubtedly these older blends were of a finer quality, that may not have been preserved over the years. Nicotine levels especially degrade. To my mind, the piping experience cannot be separated into “taste” or effect but must include both, and so the fetishism with flavor — even if grounded in science and experience — strikes me as perhaps being a mistake.

Tobacco comes in several cuts which reflect how the leaves are presented:

  • Shag. Cut laterally across the leaf, leaving an interlocked mess like peat moss that loads easily and burns well.
  • Ribbon. “Normal.” Thicker slices that seem to be vertically up and down the leaf.
  • Flake -> Ready Rubbed. Flake occurs when tobacco is pressed in blocks and then sliced; Ready Rubbed is the result of “rubbing out” those slices.
  • Plug. Tobacco is pressed together and allowed to mature that way, then cut into little pucks.
  • Cake. Like a plug, but loosely packed, resulting in a crumbly “coffee cake” style.
  • Cube. Cross-slicing the tobacco produces tiny cubes; sometimes hard to keep lit.
  • Twist -> Slices. Tobacco is twisted in plugs or flake is re-twisted in tubes, then cut into little “coin” shaped bits called slices.

The above simplifies a fairly complex process. You might also enjoy these viewpoints from P&C blender Russ Ouellette and Lane Limited manager Leonard Wortzel.

Multiple types of tobacco dot the landscape. These refer to the strain of tobacco plant and how it was cured and prepared. These are:

  • Burley. Think cigar leaves. This air-cured tobacco has a nutty flavor and higher nicotine and oil than most others. It is used to complement other tobaccos in blends, and is known for its tongue “bite” from high alkalinity.
  • Virginia. High sugar content and sweet natural taste make this type a favorite in many blends. Although this tobacco comes in many colors, its flavor stays within the mild range and makes it the basis of many blends.
  • Cavendish. This term applies to any tobacco that has been aged and cured with a heating process that brings out a fuller taste.
  • Latakia. This is Oriental tobacco which has been cured with smoke from burning oak, pine, juniper and yew wood to give it a bittersweet taste.
  • Oriental/Turkish. Sweet and low in nicotine, this is tobacco grown using the Eastern method of low soil nutrients and plenty of sun, which produces its fragrance and flavor.
  • Perique. Fermentation in its own juices after Burley tobacco is pressed into barrels gives Perique a spicy-sweet flavor. This is generally an additive to other blends to give them some spark
  • Dark Fired. Leaves are cured with smoke under carefully managed heat and humidity, producing a blend both strong in nicotine and flavor. It is used as an additive more than a main ingredient because of its intensity.

For more information, check out Russ Ouellette’s descriptions.

These are used in the following blends:

  • English. Mostly Virginia, with Latakia for body and Oriental tobaccos to provide spice.
  • Scottish. Similar to an English blend, the Scottish blend uses less Latakia and more Virginia, with little or no Orientals.
  • Balkan. Strong in Orientals and Latakia, this tobacco blend uses Virginia to balance those dominant flavors.
  • American. Although there are some similarities to the English, the American blend uses more Virginia with possible Cavendish or Kentucky style tobaccos.
  • Danish. These resemble the English, but with a deeper flavor and less spice, using more Burley and Cavendish but emphasizing stronger, more balanced flavors.

You will probably find yourself shopping by blend, which could be a substitute term for flavor. What type of smoke do you wish to taste tonight? There are several indexes for ranking different blends:

  • Harshness. How much acridity and bite there is. Strong smoke can be hard on the smoker, and “bite” is created by the alkalinity of the tobacco, which raises the pH and increases absorption of nicotine but may also cause a tangy burning sensation on the tongue.
  • Strength. You are smoking a nicotine-bearing plant. How much nicotine is delivered? A tobacco with high nicotine may be worth pounds of low-nic fruity aromatics.
  • Note. This refers to the smell left behind after the tobacco is burned. This influences both your taste of the tobacco, and what your friends, family and coworkers experience.

The de facto standard for tobacco assessments is Tobacco Reviews. Like other crowd-sourced sites such as Wikipedia and Metal-Archives, or reviews on Amazon, it is good for basic factual information and opinions from people whose judgment you have verified and who — as a result — you trust. It is not good for randomly reading reviews because most of them are written by twitchy, bitchy and queeny internet consumers who complain about all the wrong things, like all the irrelevant, and miss the point. Some of the tobaccos rated highly by this site’s users are excellent, but others are simply quirky hipster fodder. Tread carefully, and consider using the various pipe forums out there: Puff, Pipes, Smokers Forum, and Tamp and Puff. The private reviews at this location have endured because they are frequently strikingly accurate. The main point is: find someone whose opinions you respect and tastes who align with yours, even if the exact opposite of yours, and you can figure out what you will like.

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A word on lighting pipes: some prefer magnifying glasses and sun, others coals from the fire, still others matches and apparently, most like either butane lighters or Zippos. As a diehard match user, I can say that matches fail in the wind, and there is more wind that you might think, but that they seem to create the least influence on taste. Perhaps a laser is appropriate.

The pipe world is full of both facts and lore. Lore refers to anything passed on by groups of humans in social circumstances; the idea is that if it survives a dozen generations, it might be true. In the meantime, you will be wading through mountains of nonsense and worst of all, unnecessary complexity added by people who wish to seem profound or wise. Pipe-smoking is simple: you are lighting dried leaves in a tube and inhaling. The rest is mere adjustment.

The following resources may be helpful for those seeking to know more:

Here are some good places to go shopping for pipes and luxury tobacco:

Places to buy OTC tobacco, which online is sold in bulk:

Resources for those who wish to grow or blend their own tobacco:

Tobacco blenders and brands:

If you do not see your favorite blend, it is probably an imprint licensed to and manufactured by a larger group, or a boutique variety manufactured by one of the tobacco shops linked above.

For kicks, here is a list of famous pipe smokers. You can add me on there when I get famous, but be sure to mention I detest wimpy tobacco and think it should leave the hall.

Finally, the best metal for pipe smoking…

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Olivier Messiaen plays Olivier Messiaen (1956)

Olivier Messiaen about 1940 at the console of the Cavaillé-Coll-organ St.Trinité in Paris

Olivier Messiaen about 1940 at the console of the Cavaillé-Coll-organ St.Trinité in Paris

Famously noted for having claimed that he saw colors when listening to music, Olivier Messiaen was born very early in the 20th century (1908) and was one of the last in a litter of bastard composers to be caught in the crossfire between a lingering romantic spirit and modernist aesthetics. This extremely vivid perception of musical tones and his fondness for birds and their songs were, doubtless, a great influence on his methodical choice for musical language. This includes his own compiled and defined modes of limited transposition. These existed before but he was the first to compile them and examine their boundaries and relationships exhaustively.
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Amstel Brouwerij B. V. – Amstel Light

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Fins rising above his head and arms, the sea creature crept from the briny abyss and mounted the ladder which took him to the dock. There he assumed his stance, threatening and ambiguous, in his nightly role as a disturbed of the peace and scary of nosy observers. But as he stepped forward, something clicked under the loose boards, and a net dropped over his head.

“Now let’s sea who this deep sea terror really is,” said Fred Jones, ripping the plastic mask from the face of the oily monster.

“Mr. Amstel Brouwerij B. V.!” the team exclaimed in unison.

“This must be why he was trying to scare people away,” said Velma, pulling aside a door to show giant vats of sludgy tan goo.

“That’s right, I admit it. I made this costume to scare off passerby. You see, I’ve made quite a profit smuggling in this beer-flavored sludge from Amsterdam, and then mixing it with soda water to make an ultra-low cost beer which I sell to consumers at import prices. And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”

Once upon a time, Amstel Light was decent beer. Developed by the same brewer that makes Heineken and designed for the American market, it took the fuller flavor of European beer and adapted it to the market demand for lower-calorie beverages. Since it was head and shoulders better than the standard dreck, it got a good name for itself, and so the MBAs at Amstel Brouwerij B. V. realized there was a “profit pocket” — a certain amount of time they could bank on the good name by selling a far cheaper ersatz version and yet the audience would still, with insectlike motions, continue purchasing it at the higher price — and ran the brand into the ground. Amstel Light now resembles an American beer in its water, skunky, quasi-fruity flavor with the distinctly bilgy taste of most pasteurized mass-market beers. You might think that at import prices, this would be better than your average bottled drool, but they have played a bait and switch on you just like with Heineken.

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Abyssum – Cum Foeda Sanie Ex Ore (2015)

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The brainchild of Rex Ebvleb, Abyssum started out as a black metal project in the mid-nineties, resulting in a few demos and finally its sum in Thy Call, 1998. After a little time, the band simply was no more, with Ebvleb carrying on the torch on his own and in a reserved way. Disgusted by the scene that formed in the name of black metal, Ebvleb took Abyssum away, neglecting even to be openly recognized by the tag. Tags being what they are and changing in meaning as history advances for all but the most stout scholars of any given discipline, are put aside by the independent thinkers and outstanding individuals that an inverted society can never recognize. This reborn Abyssum that distances itself from what the crowds of what is now called “black metal” maintains the truly black essence of the genre that goes beyond speech and pretending, and which, as Sammath’s Kruitwagen, Antaeus’ MkM and other underground artists have pointed out in the past, is a way of life and a mindset — not just a music style.
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Interview: Funeste

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1. How did Funeste come into being?

Yannis: Well me and Léo met through my work. As a tattoo artist I get to know people rather quickly since we spend long hours together. We realized that we had a lot in common, especially music. Our passion toward the raw and the bleak immediately spawned an interest for us two to collaborate musically. We started Léo playing drums and me on guitar duty and started to incorporate other members as we progressed. But eventually the project died of its own. A couple of years later we were still involved in musical projects together. While I was mixing a common project Léo threw at me the idea to start a black metal project. At the time I was overloaded with family and work but, the idea stuck in my head and we gave the project a go. And thus Funeste was born. From there things started to moved rather quickly. After writing a couple of songs I already had test visuals for the mood of the project. But it was just for fun since we didn’t have plans to release anything serious. But the more we listened to the tracks and the more people gave us feedback on it, we realized that we had something special. So we decided to release the Ep as a demo since it wasn’t mixed at all. And then it exploded, people started to respond very positively to it and it hasn’t stopped since.

2. Funeste plays a style of black metal which although firmly standing on a modern conception of the genre also does a very good job at keeping a smooth continuity in the music through paying attention to the consistency of material. How conscious a decision is this? Do you think a choice in style matters a lot?

Yannis: Like you said although I enjoy the traditional aspect of any genre, I think it has to move forward. To me heavy metal has always been about being extreme and subversive. Personally I think these two things can only be quantized by the era we live in and what was done before. So yes I think our style of black metal is a more modern interpretation of the genre. That said I don’t think what we do is especially new.

As far as the consistency of the material goes, I think we don’t think to much about it. I personally hate music that is too linear and safe. Even super technical band can get boring if there’s no contrast in their music. So in terms of mood I think we’re pretty consistent but, sonically wise I like I’m not so sure. I don’t want us to be coined to a specific genre, that’s why we change things a lot from song to song. Most of this is pretty much done on intuition.

Lastly, the choice of style was important at first to give us a foundation to work on, and draw inspiration from it. But like punk, black metal is more an ideology than a specific sound. It’s music that is very emotionally driven and that wants to leave the listeners scarred In every way possible. At least that’s my interpretation of it. So based on that frame of mind, I think we thrive to use all our influences to emphasize those intentions which creates a black metal with a richer spectrum of nuances.

3. In that same vein, do you think that musical genres have inherent powers or strengths and that they can be especially useful at channeling specific messages?

Yannis: I think so. I always found Black metal very introspective in nature. Delving into the roots of the honest and darkest human emotions, this music can be vessel to all sorts of messages. To me it’s one of the few styles were a musician can expose self-hatred, awe and fear of the world, spirituality to its fullest. Although this music is most of the time executed to be a hard listening experience, i think it is a very positive outlet for the musician and the listener because the themes in black metal are very universal and in the end, it is very easy for people to relate to it.

Léo: I agree with Yannis and think it can go even further than that. Music that touches me is music that was made by someone feeling any kind of emotion, positive or negative, and transcripts these emotions through sound. Or at least this is how I make music. And link with the previous question, this is not constrained to any music genre. Some black metals songs can be transmit hope or relief, and pop songs can be depressing. Anyway, I guess this is why we like having vocals that melt into the instrumental part. Funeste is all about hearing a dark gloomy violent overall sound, and relating to melodic lines in any way that fits with your mind when you hear it. It could destroy your mood or strengthen it depending on who you are and what you

4. Would you care naming your main influences in metal?

Yannis: Oh this could be long hahaha! Well I know it’s not metal but, I grew up listening to King Crimson and Genesis and I think that at that era was the metal of their time. Intense, intricate and creative. When it comes to metal I started with the basic, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath then in my teens got a NuMetal phase but I was always looking for darker more punishing music. At the time I was living in the suburbs of Montreal and the only place I could dig for music was Archambault, a big record store like HMV. So I would spend days there listening to anything with a cool album cover. That’s where I discovered Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, Darkthrone. These we’re my first contacts with extreme music. Than when I moved to Montreal thing’s got better hehehe. I had more friends into extreme music, listening to death metal like Deicide and Cannibal Corpse, Macabre, Converge, Katatonia, My dying bride, Dark Tranquility. And then the internet started blooming. Oh the glory! Like most kids my age It was a revelation. And it really allowed me to find music that was tailored to my standards.

But to answer your question more specifically, the metal bands that really influenced me to carve the music I do with Funeste would be bands like Weakling, Twilight, Leviathan, Converge, Brutal truth, Cryptopsy, My dying bride, Buried at Sea, Gaza, Deathspell Omega, The body, Abandon. I also draw inspiration from any genre, weather its Massive Attack’s Mezzanine, all the discography from Songs ; Ohia, Van der Graff Generator or the classical music of Alfred Schnittke. Listening only to metal makes really narrow minded records I find.

Léo: Appart from the bands that Yannis cited as direct influence for Funeste, we both listened to many genres which (I hope) gives us some diversity when we compose. My father has a pretty big vinyl collection, and I listened to literally every kind of music that he could find. Later on I developed my own tastes and started to listen to slipknot like many people, which quickly got me interested in more extreme metal bands such as vader, amon amarth, cannibal corpse, gorgoroth, and a lot of punk-hardcore and crust bands like converge, black breath, defdump, etc. There are so many bands that make awesome music that I kind of feel bad to name only a few of them, but I love listening to any band that makes me feel some emotion. Although, music playing with darker emotions will get to me more easily.

5. What about influences outside metal? What about outside music, perhaps in literature or cinema?

Yannis: I guess I answered parts of that question in the last question. For the music we create I focus more on reality. I watch a lot of documentaries on war, poverty and other bleak subjects. Lots of true crime shows. But mostly, what inspires me the most is my own personal experience. I’ve been dealing with Generalized Anxiety disorder for a good while now. Living constantly with feelings of dread generates a lot of anger, which in the end make for good heavy metal hehehe!

Léo: Well, I like making music by myself, so I guess I’m mostly inspired by what goes on through my mind when I let it slide alongside with the music. But what you live everyday is an inspiration. If you have a bad day have a beer and you will most likely write fucking angry music. As long as it concerns me, I like watching movies a lot and taking pictures. I think I’m always writing music with a graphical environment in my mind, but I couldn’t really tell, as my composing process is mainly based on letting everything go, get in my personal bubble and plug my guitar.

6. What is your composition process? Would you care detailing it and commenting on what you believe are its strengths and weaknesses?

Yannis: We’re only two in this project and tough we live in the same city we don’t jam together. I think of us more like a two headed one man project than an actual band. The way it goes is we both compose riffs and we send them to each other, than we build unto them. And then we trim the extra fat, the stuff we don’t want or like. Then I add the bass and the lyrics and vocals. I think it’s a great way to work. We can create on our own time that way we don’t have to go through the hassle of make everyone’s schedules fit. And there’s no downside because we’re always calling each other for input and we meet for beers on a regular basis.

7. Does Funeste have a goal, a message or an intention? Does the music attempt to transmit something in particular or is music “just music”? I am not referring to music in service of an ideology, necessarily, but as music as a communicator of aspects of our condition as human beings.

Yannis: For me it’s a way relieving myself of a lot of anger and frustrations towards that I’ve been repressing for a long time. I guess my main goal is to make music that I enjoy while keeping metal relevant and as far away from the cartoonish travesty it can become. I try to write lyrics that are close to my heart. I know I should be signing about nature, satan or the fact that I wanna go back to our old Viking ways with my iPhone in one hand and my credit card in the other but , this is just not me and its not part of my heritage. I’m a city boy and always been. And the city is a very demanding and stressful place, where the well-off cohabitates with the homeless. With anxiety and depression on the rise, people losing their religion and values and replacing it with careers and selfies. This is all very bleak to me and pushes me to create music that reflects that. Also all the lyrics are written in French which was really important to me. Here in Montreal, the French Canadian underground is not very strong. Very few band writes their music in French. They’d rather write everything in English because there’s a better chance for them to ”make it” in the music business. I think we shouldn’t be ashamed of our heritage and we should promote the hell out of it, even to places that don’t speak french. If the music is good there will be ears all over the globe that want’s to listen to it.

Léo: We started Funeste with no specific goal other than make music and “evacuate” some energy through that. Also, we didn’t expect the attention we get now at all, so we don’t have specific goals related to that. But if people listen to Funeste and enjoy it in any way this we are very thankful. And we will continue making music in the same mindset.

8. Do you have a vision for the future of the band in terms of its growth?

Yannis: Create new music, grow as a musician, meet people. I’d like for us to do splits in the future as well. I still don’t know what our next release is gonna be. Another Ep? LP? who knows. One thing is for sure we’re writing new music as we speak, and it should see the light of day in the next 6 months or so. Eventually I think we’d like to get a proper line up to do live shows but this is still in discussion at the moment.

11. Is Le Triomphe du Charnier Funeste’s first release or is there anything else fans of the band should check out?

Yannis: The Ep is our first outing. Me and Léo also play in a Electro Post-Rockish band called St-Petersbourg. Our new ep that I personally mixed, is coming out this summer. Other that’s pretty much it on my side.

12. What would be the best way in which the audience can get into contact with Funeste?

Through our email: funestemtl@gmail.com

Facebook: https: www.facebook.com/funestemtl

Black element Production: blackelementproductions@gmail.com

13. Is there anything in particular you would like to let the metal world know about the band? Is there any particular reason why the audience should keep an eye on Funeste?

Yannis: Well, if you like bleak, unforgiving black metal, give us a try. There’s a good chance you’re gonna enjoy our EP. And keep in mind, the next song are gonna continue pushing our own boundaries to create music more and more punishing.

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Det Som Engang Var: Significance and Merit

Burzum-Det_Som_Engang_Var-Frontal

Much like Darkthrone’s Under a Funeral Moon preceding Transilvanian Hunger or Immolation’s Herein After before Failures for Gods and Close to a World Below, Burzum’s Det Som Engang Var(roughly translatable as “What Once Was”) before Hvis Lyset Tar Oss(“If the Light Takes Us) puts on display all of Varg Vikernes’ faculties as a composer in a way that is still relatively easy for a listener to make out the different things he is doing, unlike the next album where a convergence and purification that only a minority are able to grasp in all its excellence and magnificence. As Brett Stevens commented not so long ago in reference to Immolation’s Close to a World Below, some bands make the same album again and again until they are able to solidify their vision in a magnum opus.

Many metalheads who respect this album may do so out of a respect for how influential it is, without truly understanding that even if this album came out today, after all the others they are said to have influenced, it would still be as impressive and worthy of high praise — but perhaps it would not be noticed by the same people who today profess to appreciate it. Contrary to common belief, its worth is musical, not historical only. This is not very different from people who “enjoy” Black Sabbath or Celtic Frost, but fail to see the monument that works like Master of Reality and To Mega Therion are. In great part this error lies in associating or equating technical prowess on the instrument and an apparent “complexity” of notes with  a complexity of thought and excellence in composition. These albums display an astounding clarity resulting from the exquisitely fused elements of music (harmony, melody, rhythm…) in a way that may strike the unaware as “simple”. Confusing intelligibility with limitation/blandness/simplicity is the greatest sin one can commit against masterworks of music, because the greatest works all share this as a common trait.. While this is even more true of Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, it bears bringing into question the undue musical disrespect of which Burzum in general is the victim.

The album contains tracks that make use of abrasive and extremely dissonant intervals, very consonant and relaxed harmonizations of melodies, synths as support and synths as the main instrument in ambient tracks all together and mixed in different ways and given the spotlight in different tracks. It is, perhaps, this up-front “complexity” of having so many distinct colors that at least attracts the attention of and mention by even those who do not understand black metal. The composition itself is technically nuanced but like any proper work of art, comes off as intelligible to the point of being confused with “simplicity” in its negative connotation. The complexity of the works like Burzum lies in the seamless unfolding of a story, a masterfully woven tapestry blending all sorts of disparaged puzzles and meanings within its frames not unlike Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. The importance of discussing Det Som Engang Var is that it is here that his thinking  is most easily and obviously seen. Without understanding this album, monumental works like Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Burzum’s stepping-into ambient(or as he described it, Anti-Black Metal) territory, Filosofem, can never be truly appreciated.

Regarding its little-mentioned lyrical topics that are actually worth mentioning in any integral metal work, they consist on a mixture of melancholy and longing for a grand and fantastic past that exists more in the mind of a romantic than in historical reality (but which makes the values and traditions it longs for no less meaningful or real), and an existentialist questioning of the self’s position in a world of men that makes little sense and which launches the brave man in search of truth behind, or rather past, human constructions. In addition to that, the tendency towards nature worship and an attraction towards the forest as the archetypal home of homes, a safeguard from the evil of men and their perversions motivated by greed and thirst for power, is ever present in Varg Vikernes’ language and allusions. These have also been the target of cynical contempt by the petty minds of postmodernists who are unable to make a connection with nature and are rather too fond of themselves as creatures of a decadent society, leading them to denounce anyone pointing at obvious truths about its breaking-apart.

Restoring the pride and respect that Det Som Engang Var has never had in truth, just as Burzum hearkens to a grand past that has never existed here on Earth but that through an evocation of opposites rather points to an idealist future, so we attempt here to find a direction for future metal to grow in undreamed of ways that do not diverge from the essence of metal and that stand on the firm example of the greats that did exist but have never been duly studied.

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Necromantic Worship – Spirit of the Entrance Unto Death (2015)

Necromantic Worship

Occult-themed black metal that emphasizes its theme/ideology as its guiding light (as opposed to nu-black metal projects who can hardly be said to actually incorporate the ceremonial aspect into their music in any way besides their post-metal meanderings attempts at creating “atmosphere”) often fail for a variety of reasons. More often than not it is because they lose sight of what music is, and thinking only about their meta-presentation and try to justify poorly constructed music with the excuse that the goal lies outside music. In truth, good music is the goal itself, as a medium and experience. Rather than a gateway, it is the vehicle.

Necromantic Worship incorporates a very simple and almost rock-like repetitive black metal played with guitars that are barely set to override (not even truly distorted) and mix this with ambient-like passages that include the use of piano and synths, prayer exclamations and tremolo melodies. The best aspect of this three-song release is the latter. The simple and rock-like sections barely hold up musically, repeating for too-long with the only purpose of supporting the vocal track, itself only the medium for words. The verses that contain rapid-changing tremolo-picked melodies and soft blast beats are the only sections containing “singing” voice that can be rescued.

The sections that musically embrace the occult right and mix ambient and black metal are worthwhile and should be focused on by this artist in the future as his method has huge potential in its progressive bent. An alternative suggestion would be to learn motif-form variations in the black metal style from Varg Vikernes’ work with early Burzum. This, combined with a guitar tone that actually fills in the frequency spectrum of the audio would improve the overall experience.

Spirit of the Entrance Unto Death tracklist:

  1. Nergal, The Raging King
  2. Conjuration of the Fire God
  3. The Dark Young of Shub Niggurath
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Horgkomostropus – Lúgubre Resurrección (1995)

horgk1995

Formed in 1991, Horgkomostropus was a death metal band hailing from the unlikely land of Honduras, in Central America. Unlike virtually every other band coming from that the area, this band actually proposes something of other own.  This music is not only several pegs above the vast majority of music in Central America, but it is also, in my view,  a strong contender in the death metal world of the 1990s. That is not to say I would place Horgkomostropus besides a Morbid Angel, but perhaps above a Demigod and below the Amorphis of The Karelian Isthmus in terms of its artistic (merit in composition, in part) weight.

The style displayed on Lúgubre Resurrección (or Ingubre Resurrecciòn?) is akin to that blood-dripped death metal that slurs in a development of motifs thematically related and played through tremolo passages and power chord statements. Perhaps best described as an original and distinct-sounding follower of the styles in which Paul Ledney excels, this album strikes one as something that Gorguts’ Considered Dead could have been if it were not only the tongue-in-cheek musically-compelling banner of death metal it is.

There is something to be said about the place and time in which this work arose and what we can infer from it in terms of the band’s seriousness, commitment and perhaps its correlation with talent. During the 1990s, Central America was practically without the means to professionally produce music in general, let alone publish metal. Any metal band that would remotely hope to publish its music had to reach out for Mexico. To someone from a developed nation, this may seem like no big deal, but considering the Internet-less “Third World” of the time, this is cannot be taken lightly. In such inhospitable climate, how did a Central American death metal band get their demo/album out there? I am guessing this people had to be in the “mailing” circuit of the underground.

The band was able to get their first demo,  Lúgubre Resurrección, out through Line America Productions, from Mexico. Needless to say, in these conditions, the commitment of the band against adversity and the complete lack of any possible material compensation reflects a disinterested sacrifice for art with a deeper meaning. Furthermore, given the limited resources and the difficulty of communication and publishing for death metal at the time and specially in the geographical area, the degree of talent needed to catch the attention of one of these very small labels that only supported very specific acts with equally uncommon mentality and faculties was by no means something to be overlooked.

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Horgkomostropus’ Lúgubre Resurrección is an esoteric work that in later projects by the band leader and lead guitar player, Fernando Sánchez, would turn to purposefully veiled occult affairs like Aria Sepvlchralia. As has been proposed before, a clear theme or belief that a project holds as its ideal usually lights a candle in the dungeons of the mind that one has to walk in in order to bring together a composition. Most bands we hear out there are zombies who are still wandering there, too deluded and trapped in their own minds to even recognize their condition.

Lúgubre Resurrección shines forth dark light in a mixture of demonic-bent death metal with a black mentality influenced by the local styles of street-dirt heavy metal that prevailed in Latin America at the time, themselves a pure expression of the violent, desperate and decadent situation that was being ignored by Christian wishful-thinkers and hypocritical morals-mongers. Beautifully perverse thematic development occurs in these songs with such a strict adherence to a clear motif that it allows for a greater flexibility in the textures of the riffs, which are always kept in the style of early blasphemous death metal that emphasized a dirty sound, not on the level of production only, but the musical statements themselves: not atonal, but tonal phrases just given the necessary twist for an aura of perversion to be perceived encroaching on everything from above. This is the natural world before us, but there is a supernatural transgression taking place over it.

(P.S. Special thanks to the guy from Metal Honduras blog for keeping a profile and mp3s of the band that would allow me to discover this, if I may so myself — a recently converted and now fervent fanatic, invaluable gem. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Metal-Honduras/217812037969)

Horgkomostropus MP3s

The following is

An orchestral piece based on “Lúgubre Resurrección”, originally written by S:E:Nctvm for Horgkomostropus (Death Metal) in 1996.

Performed & Arranged by: S:A:Ph with insight from S:E:Nctvm (2011),

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